US scientists have used a portable device that can pass an electric current through the skin of the neck to the vagus nerve to stimulate brain activity and relieve fatigue in a person who has not gone to sleep for a long time.
The Journal of Communications Biology indicates that fatigue causes slowed reaction and poor attention, and this is a serious problem for those who work long consecutive hours, such as doctors, pilots and drivers, where any mistake they commit threatens the lives of many.
Caffeine or other chemical stimulants are commonly used to combat fatigue, which are usually effective in certain situations. But doctors do not recommend taking it constantly. So scientists are looking for a new way to combat fatigue.
The scientists of the US Air Force Research Laboratory, headed by Lindsey McIntyre, decided to test the possibility of using a device sold in the market, used to treat headaches and migraines using an electrical current through the skin, to reduce the level of fatigue through stimulating the vagus nerve.
As it is known, the vagus nerve transmits signals between the brain, the digestive system and many major organs of the body, which determines a person’s mood. Scientists had previously demonstrated that stimulating the vagus nerve improves memory and learning.
The researchers chose 40 volunteers from the US Air Force, who had not slept for 34 hours. The researchers identified nine times, separated by regular intervals, their ability to remain alert and perform multiple tasks at the same time. Twelve hours after the start of the tests, one group of volunteers was allowed to use the electrical stimulus, and the remaining group was given a placebo.
And it became clear to the researchers, that the members of the group that used the electrical stimulator of the vagus nerve, performed their tasks better, and confirmed that they feel less tired, compared to the members of the group that used a placebo stimulus. These effects peaked after 12 hours of using the electrostimulator. Overall, the electrical stimulus kept sleep-deprived pilots awake for 19 hours.
According to the researchers, stimulating the vagus nerve with a portable device could become a simple and safe way to reduce the negative effects of poor sleep and have fewer side effects than caffeine or medication.
Source: RIA Novosti